Activities that Give Recognition Trump Financial Goals for Kids

June 30, 2011 ( - Poll results released by Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s financial literacy Web site,, indicate kids are much more satisfied by – and committed to – succeeding in school than managing their dollars.

Nearly half (47%) of children said the goal they stick with the most is “academics (reading, writing, math),” compared to just 5% who said “setting a budget for saving and spending.” When asked about their accomplishments, 45% were most proud of “receiving good grades” versus just 9% who were most proud of “saving money to buy something special.”   

As further proof that kids more value activities for which they gain recognition and positive reinforcement, after academic goals, kids said they were most committed to learning a new skill like playing sports or an instrument (28%) and trying to stay healthy (17%). Boys were much more dedicated to perfecting their athletic and musical skills (46% vs. 15% for girls), while almost a third of girls cited “trying to stay healthy” (30% vs. 1% for boys). “Setting a budget for saving and spending” was a much lower priority for boys and girls alike (4% and 6%, respectively), according to a press release.   

When asked to name the achievement they were most proud of, boys chose “winning a sporting or arts competition” above all other achievements (58%), followed by good grades (29%). The results are flipped for girls, with more than half citing the most pride in “good grades” (53%), followed by 30% that cite “winning a sporting or arts competition.” Again, financial accomplishments were much lower on the list, with only 9% of boys and girls citing “saving money” as the accomplishment they’re most proud of.   

“What these findings underscore is that kids are more willing to stick with a goal if they’re recognized and proud of what they have accomplished ,” said Rebekah Barsch, Northwestern Mutual vice president – market strategy and training, in the press release. “As parents, we need to also provide positive reinforcement to encourage children to set and reach financial goals.”   

Adults recently polled by Northwestern Mutual also indicated they need more discipline with finances (see Retirement Ranks High among Financial Goals).